Leeds UCU calls off one-day strike

Negotiations promise ‘groundbreaking’ process to manage organisational change. John Morgan reports

February 24, 2010

Strikes over job cuts at the University of Leeds have been suspended after union representatives and management moved close to a deal on avoiding redundancies and engaging staff in “organisational change”.

The Leeds branch of the University and College Union had scheduled a one-day strike for tomorrow, with two further one-day stoppages to come next week.

But after a breakthrough in talks with management through the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service produced a deal, the UCU branch voted to suspend action at a meeting today.

Union members had voted to strike amid anger over the university’s plans to make annual savings of £35 million a year. The UCU said 54 staff had lost their jobs and a total of 700 posts would go.

Gavin Reid, Leeds UCU vice-president, said of the agreement: “There will be no compulsory redundancies at Leeds until at least January 2011.”

He added that although the commitment to avoid redundancies related in the first instance to the faculty of biological sciences, where there is an ongoing review separate to the wider savings plan, “in practice it means across the whole university”.

Dr Reid said: “It looks like a large victory for the union, given what the sector is facing at the moment.”

The deal on which the two sides are close to agreement would mean there is a clear role for the university’s senate in approving academic plans before any area is restructured; that any plan requiring job cuts other than through natural turnover must be approved by the university council; and that staff in any department under review must be fully consulted.

Union representatives and management are still discussing the review of the faculty of biological sciences. The deal is also subject to negotiation with Unison and Unite.

With talks yet to conclude, the university has agreed that the UCU’s mandate for industrial action, which was due to expire on 2 March, be extended for another four weeks.

A Leeds spokeswoman said: “The university and the UCU are close to agreement on a new process of organisational change. The process – which is subject to negotiation with the other two campus unions – is intended to reinforce collegiality and the engagement of staff.

“It represents a groundbreaking package enshrining the principles of openness, fairness, transparency and good governance in detailed new policies and procedures to promote job security, avoid redundancy and manage change.”

john.morgan@tsleducation.com

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